Archive for December, 2016

Outside the Fences: The Boston Mill Experience With a Steam Train for Those Without a Ticket

December 31, 2016
Hey, it shows the steam engine, right? But for a serious photographer this would not be considered a good image beyond its documentary value.

Hey, this image shows the steam engine, right? But for a serious photographer this would not be considered a good image beyond its documentary value. Nonetheless, it does show something.

First of two parts

Plastic orange fences, multiple police officers watching the crowd, and people standing all over the place and getting in your photos.

Such is the reality of being at the Boston Mill station of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for steam in the valley if you do not have a ticket to ride the train.

The 2016 steam season seemed to have set records for how strict security could be to keep photographers without tickets away from the tracks.

In fact, it seemed to tighten from one weekend to the other. What was OK the first weekend wasn’t allowed during the second weekend.

Let me say up front that I have no problem with the CVSR limiting access to the prime real estate to ticketed passengers.

Although the 2016 trips were reported to have sold out, there is still an economic issue involved. If anyone could get into the photo area at the station, then what incentive do people have to buy a ticket?

Besides, the CVSR marketing materials suggested that ticketed passengers would get something that those without tickets didn’t have.

They did, sort of, but that depends on how you look at it. In past years, those without tickets were allowed to roam free at Boston Mill during the photo runbys.

You can get some decent photographs at Boston Mill, but the best images to be had are elsewhere along the CVSR in places open to everyone.

In fairness, CVSR and Cuyahoga Valley National Park officials also are concerned with safety issues.

When you have the type of crowds that were drawn to Boston Mill this year there is the potential for someone to do something foolish.

The orange plastic fencing around the perimeter of the Boston Mill station wasn’t new this year. What was new was that the fencing extended along the tracks south of the station in an effort to keep people from walking down the tracks to stake out photo locations. That probably was a safety precaution.

Some of the security this year, though, was overkill, particularly placing “temporary no parking” signs along Riverview Road well out of view of the photo runby site.

But, again, I wasn’t upset about that because there are plenty of other places to photograph the steam train other than at Boston Mill.

The images that I’ve presented with this post are designed to show the downside of photographing at Boston Mill when you are confined to the non-ticketed zone.

You have to stand in Boston Park on the south side of Boston Road or in the parking area for the ski resort west of the tracks.

Police were strict the second weekend about keeping people from crossing Riverview to stand along the orange fencing and/or the highway guardrails.

None of these security measures mean much if all you want to do is watch the train go by. I saw people sitting in lawn chairs doing just that, some of them elderly.

But what is a serious photographer to do under such conditions?

One approach is to take the view that you are documenting an event. The crowds, the security and the less than ideal photo angles become part of the story if not the story.

All of the images that accompany this post were made with that in mind.

Next time I’ll suggest some strategies for coming away with some good images despite all of the barriers in your way by making the situation work to your advantage.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

In past year, you could have walked up to and shot over that security fence. But not this year.

In past years, you could have walked up to and shot over that security fence. But not this year.

Even with a telephoto lens it is tough getting a good image of the crowd interacting with the crew without that orange fencing getting in the way.

Even with a telephoto lens it can be tough getting a good image of the crowd interacting with the steam locomotive crew without that orange fencing getting in the way.

This what you are up against in Boston Park, crowds of people, poles and wires.

What you are up against in Boston Park? How about crowds of people, poles and wires.

This does OK, I suppose in showing the smoke plume of the NKP 767 and the roadway that stood between the photographers and the tracks. Police and CVSR personnel made sure that those without a ticket did not cross Riverview Road as the train approached.

This photo does OK, I suppose, in showing the smoke plume of the NKP 767 and the roadway that stood between the photographers and the tracks. Police and CVSR personnel made sure that those without a ticket did not cross Riverview Road as the train approached.

It's not a terrible image, but not a good one, either.

It’s not a terrible image, but not necessarily a good one, either.

I was trying to convey a sense of the photo line, but it didn't work out that well because of the distance I had to stand behind them.

I was trying to convey a sense of the photo line, but it didn’t work out that well because of the distance that I had to stand behind them. Such is life outside the fences.

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New NS Eco Power Rolls Through Area

December 30, 2016

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Thursday started out gloomy and overcast but by afternoon the sun had come out. I was Railfaning Norfolk Southern at Hudson and caught a few trains.

About 3 p.m. I got word that 15N had left Conway with a brand new eco set in its consist. I figured it would take about two hours to reach me which by then would be dark.

I decided to relocate to Rootstown, which would put me 20 minutes closer to the train. I got a few more trains while waiting but the shadows were creeping in.

At 4:28 p.m. the train arrived and I was able to get a few sunlight photos. In the few minutes it took the train to pass me the sun dipped behind the clouds. Talk about cutting it close.

Article and Photograps by Todd Dillon

Some Erie Now and Then From the East End

December 30, 2016

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Centennial Trains

Centennial Trains

Memorabilia from the Erie Railroad's centennial.

Memorabilia from the Erie Railroad’s centennial.

In keeping with the theme then and now, I thought I would pass on this little tidbit from the Erie Railroad’s east end.

On a late December day I am standing at New Jersey Transit’s Ramsey/Route 17 Station in Ramsey, New Jersey, which is less than 10 years old.

Erie milepost JC 28 is about 600 feet behind me. I am on the station platform looking railroad west (compass north).

You can probably tell that this was the Erie main line and four tracks wide in the Erie/Erie Lackawanna days.

Above me, traffic is whizzing by on the Route 17 overpass. Thousands of commuters and tens of thousands of cars go through and over this unremarked spot every day. If they only knew.

Now, we go back 65 years to 1951. The Erie Railroad is celebrating its 100th Anniversary.

A special train is being run with museum cars, the latest in Erie freight and passenger cars and new, shiny roaring diesel locomotives.

There were also some flat cars. On one of these flat cars is carried the Baltimore & Ohio’s 1855- built William Mason and a period passenger car.

They are disguised as an Erie train from 1851 and will be off-loaded at certain display areas to give operating demonstrations to the crowds of visitors.

Which brings us back to the matter of milepost JC 28.

The William Mason and its train were off-loaded here. Erie officials had given orders to an eastbound freight to temporarily stop and pose with the William Mason for the company photographer.

The photographer was on – you guessed it – the Route 17 overpass directly above my head. Although I can show the spot of the photo I could not duplicate the elevation due to bridge changes and the volume of traffic.

If everyone that passes through today only knew what happened at this very spot 65 years ago.

Article and Photographs by Jack Norris

Vintage Diesel Going to Steamtown

December 30, 2016

Steamtown National Historic Site is taking delivering of a vintage diesel locomotive that may be restored there.

Park serviceFormer New York, Ontario & Western No. 105, a GE 44-ton center cab, was moved to Steamtown from Winslow, New Jersey.

The locomotive was moved by the New York, Ontario and Western Railway Historical Society, which expects No. 105 to be displayed if not restored.

Some Day, These Will be Classic

December 29, 2016

Amtrak at Durand 12-x

A lot of railfans are not overly fond of the modern signals that Class 1 railroads have been installing in recent years.

They don’t like how these modern signals tend to look alike and how they are replacing signals seen as classic, such as Baltimore & Ohio color position light signals and the searchlight signals found on some railroads.

Some signals are even associated with a particular railroad, adding little touches that made them distinct from other signals. Signals of the B&O, Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate Road and Chesapeake & Ohio come to mind.

Shown are a set of modern signals on a cantilever signal bridge in Durand, Michigan. The train beneath it is Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water en route to Chicago.

The first strike against modern signals is that the basic structure is similar to that used on interstate highways. This signal belongs to Canadian National, but with its generic look it could be standing guard over anywhere on any class 1 railroad in North America.

The second strike against this signal is that it replaced a set of classic searchlight signals put up by the Grand Trunk Western decades ago.

It might be difficult to imagine today, but someday this signal might be seen as classic. It might also be that this signal will not always be here, too.

Signaling technology may advance to a point where railroads no longer need lineside signals. The signal indication will be relayed by satellite to the locomotive cab through an advanced positive train control system.

We can’t say when that might come about or how long this signal will remain in service.

In time, it might be that future generations of railfans who never saw a B&O color position light or searchlight signal will have the same fondness for this technology as many today have for signal technology rooted in the early to middle 20th century.

I happen to like this image even if the signal is not classic and feature LED lighting rather than lightbulbs. It captures a scene in railroading that is timeless by showing the fleeting relationship between a train and the signals telling the crew that it is safe to proceed.

And that, in essence, is the purpose of signals. It may be that railroads no longer distinguish themselves by adding small touches to the design of their signals.

But no matter the design, signals and trains are still made to go together.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

 

Oxford Leaning Toward Funding Amtrak Stop

December 29, 2016

News media reports out of southwest Ohio indicate that the City of Oxford is prepared to spend up to $350,000 to establish a stop for Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Amtrak 4The seven-member Joint Miami University-Oxford Amtrak Committee estimates that establishing the stop would cost between $1 million and $1.3 million.

That would include a 300-foot platform, an open-air canopy or shelter, and sidewalks.

Members of the Oxford City Council have spoken in favor of the station and signaled they are willing to consider helping to fund it.

The study committee has suggesting establishing the station south of Chestnut Street adjacent to Talawanda Local Schools’ Nelson-Morrow Building.

Parking and restrooms could be provided in the former Talawanda High School site.

No time frame has been announced on when the city might approve funding for the station.

Megabus Leaving East Lansing

December 29, 2016

Amtrak will have one less competitor in East Lansing, Michigan, after Megabus stops its service between there and Chicago on Jan. 9.

megabusMegabus, which is known for its low fares, currently stops at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway, which is also used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water.

Lack of customer demand and a corporate restructuring were behind the decision to pull out of the East Lansing-Chicago market, said Megabus spokesman Sean Hughes.

He also cited low fuel prices and competition from other bus companies.

Hughes indicated the Megabus will be cutting other routes serving Chicago next month.

Other bus companies that operate between East Lansing and Chicago include Greyhound and Indian Trails.

Megabus currently also serves Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids in Michigan.

News reports have indicated that Megabus will also cease service in Iowa in January where it stops in Davenport, Coralville  (near Iowa City) and Des Moines on a Chicago-Omaha, Nebraska, route.

Railroading as It Once Was: Legit Tagging

December 28, 2016

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Here is some legit tagging from May 1978. In 1975 Clipper Express let the West Town Community Youth Art Center of Chicago paint one of its TOFC trailers. There were several other Clipper Express trailers painted with various themes, too. This unit was on Conrail TV 98 eastbound on the former Erie Lackawanna in Akron.

Photograph by Roger Durfee

NS Marathon: Day in Olmsted Falls (2)

December 27, 2016
This was the only "foreign power" that I saw all day leading an NS train. I wound up seeing CSX after all.

This was the only “foreign power” that I saw all day leading an NS train. I wound up seeing CSX after all.

One in a periodic series of images that I made last summer

The downside to spending so much time railfanning in one location is that you might lack the motivation to move on.

Last July, I spent the morning in Olmsted Falls next to the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. My plan was to drive to Berea about noon so that I could catch some CSX action. I wouldn’t miss anything on NS.

But as noon drew near, I found myself putting off heading for Berea. In part that was because I wanted to photograph aircraft landing at nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport where making their final approaches over the Falls. I was enjoying photographing aircraft about as much as I was photographing trains.

In looking back at my 2016 railfan activities, I’ve probably spent more time with NS than with CSX. In part that is due to the erratic nature of CSX traffic these days.

An operating plan implanted within the past year has sought to have regular trains leave on a schedule of something like every 26 hours rather than every 24 hours.

Some symbol freights have been combined, others abolished and trains have become much longer.

During my times in Berea this year, it has seemed as though NS traffic – though still subject to lull periods – has been steadier than CSX traffic.

But I haven’t conducted any empirical studies of that so at best I am conveying an impression than a conclusion based on hard evidence.

On this July day, NS did go through some long lulls during the afternoon hours, particularly in late afternoon. But it didn’t seem so empty because I had airplanes to watch.

I kept putting off my time to relocate to Berea until a car pulled in that didn’t look familiar, but the driver did.

It was Marty Surdyk and his brother Robert. The car belonged to the girlfriend of Marty’s brother John.

Once Marty arrived, my plans to move over to Berea vanished because we started visiting and talking trains.

The model railroad club housed in the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern depot in Olmsted Falls was open and Marty and I spent some time talking with club members and checking out their HO scale layout.

That also effective ended my keeping a log of the trains that we saw because my log book was in my camera bag, which was in my car on the other side of the tracks.

There was shade next to the depot, but not in the parking lot on the north side of the tracks.

The afternoon traffic mix was not as diverse as it had been earlier in the day.

Intermodal trains predominated, but there were two auto rack trains, a couple of tanker trains and a couple of manifest freights.

The auto rack train was a one hit wonder with a CSX locomotive. It might have been the CSX train that uses NS trackage rights between Cleveland and Toledo.

It would be the only train I would see all day that did not have an NS unit leading.

Marty had to take Robert home around 5 or 5:30 p.m. but said he’d be back for the evening.

We ended up sticking around until just after 8 p.m. As luck would have it, the only trains we caught after 5:30 were westbounds.

That was a good thing because the light favored westbounds over eastbounds.

By 8 p.m. the shadows were growing long and I began thinking about getting home to fix dinner.

And so ended my all-day NS marathon in Olmsted Falls. I probably won’t be doing anything like that again until next year’s Dave McKay Day in early April.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Going green with a bit of orange thrown in.

Going green with a bit of orange thrown in.

After sitting in the Berea siding for quite a while, this train got a new crew and headed westward.

After sitting in the Berea siding for quite a while, this train got a new crew and headed westward.

I've always enjoyed stack trains of a nearly uniform consist. All of this train fit into the frame.

I’ve always enjoyed stack trains of a nearly uniform consist. All of this train fit into the frame.

I'm pretty sure this was an NS auto rack train.

I’m pretty sure this was an NS auto rack train.

Train L13 came in from Bellevue running light. Between the time it arrived and departed nearly two hours later, just one train would pass by.

Train L13 came in from Bellevue running light. Between the time it arrived and departed nearly two hours later, just one train would pass by.

Train L13 had a cut of brand new tank cars.

Train L13 had a cut of brand new tank cars.

Bellevue-bound L13 passes the Olmsted Falls depot.

Bellevue-bound L13 passes the Olmsted Falls depot.

I had a pair of tanker trains in the morning and another pair in the late afternoon.

I had a pair of tanker trains in the morning and another pair in the late afternoon.

I managed to work in a landing plane at Hopkins passing over this westbound tanker train. And I got the sun in the image to boot.

I managed to work in a landing plane at Hopkins passing over this westbound tanker train. And I got the sun in the image to boot.

A Union Pacific until in trailing in this consist was the only Western Class 1 unit I saw.

A Union Pacific until that is trailing in this consist was the only Western Class 1 unit I saw.

The late day light was really sweet.

The late day light was really sweet.

CSX Trains Using New Washington Tunnel

December 27, 2016

CSX said that it has completed the first phase of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project in Washington, D.C., to allow double-stacked intermodal trains to travel between Midwest terminals and Atlantic seaports.

CSX logo 1The first train used the new southern tunnel on Dec. 23 en route from North Baltimore, Ohio, to Portsmouth, Virginia.

The last of 61 clearance projects in the $850 million National Gateway Initiative, the entire project is slated to be finished in mid-2018. Work has begun on the northern tunnel.

“Clearing the National Gateway for double-stack freight creates more efficient, more environmentally friendly routes to move the essential goods that fuel today’s economy,” said Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. “Thanks to the support of our federal and state partners over the past eight years and the commitment of CSX’s shareholders to invest in the company’s future, the double-stack-cleared National Gateway will allow CSX to better meet the needs of consumers and businesses throughout the eastern U.S. for decades to come.”